Surrounded by a closely packed crowd and paintings by Bonnard, the Elaine Comparone Ensemble performed at the Phillips Collection yesterday afternoon, with a selection of predominantly modern works.
One would normally expect a chamber group comprised of harpsichord, soprano, flute, oboe and violin to produce a repertoire concentrated on baroque music. But this concert produced two world premieres, introducing new works by John W. Freeman and Vincent Persichetti, both written in 1981.
The Freeman, "Somewhere I Never Traveled," for soprano, flute and harpsichord, uses e. e. cummings poems for text. With a mostly tonal format in a lyrical style, the music in relation to the text seemed to rapidly skim over these sometimes far-reaching poems, never delving into layers of meaning or depth. The music itself tended to establish a very short waltzy or otherwise lilting theme, rarely changing in mood in the course of each poem.
The Persichetti work, for solo harpsichord in three movements, began with a section vaguely reminiscent of the chromatic fantasy idea of Bach, but became much more playful in the course of the movement. Elaine Comparone's adaptation was forceful and convincing, especially in the last two movements, which dealt primarily with contrasting material.
In the more traditional realm, the ensemble performed a Telemann trio sonata and Sonata VI in G major for violin and harpsichord by Bach. Also, another modern piece by Lester Trimble, "Petit Concert" with texts by Shakespeare and Blake, produced a brief and enchanting musical journey.